Dear Distracted Driver

I can picture what may have been on your mind. Maybe you’d just spilled scalding hot coffee on your brand new outfit, which was doubly annoying because you were on your way to a job interview—one you’d been preparing for with much nervousness and anticipation. Maybe you were late for said interview, and maybe your son chose that moment to text you: he forgot his lunch again—could you please bring it to him later? Maybe your heart sank. You didn’t have time for this—time for life, really—and the stress was piling on. You came to a rolling stop at the crosswalk, pausing just long enough to alert any dawdling pedestrians of your presence, reasoning that they’d see you and get out of the way. Then, you went ahead and stepped on it.

This particular time, the pedestrian was me.

You missed the white cane, I imagine, focused as you were on your phone, or the spilled coffee, or whatever it is you were distracted by. You missed the fact that I was dressed in a tight skirt and heels, and would never have had time to throw myself out of your way or run ahead of you as you drove toward me. I’m assuming that, for any number of reasons, you missed the fact that I was there at all. It took someone else’s frantic scream—I was standing there like a bewildered deer in headlights–before you lurched to a halt, giving me just enough time to hurry past before you took off again.

I know what you must have been thinking: pedestrians will move out of the way. Pedestrians can see you coming. Pedestrians do have the right of way, yes, but it wouldn’t kill them to wait once in a while, would it?

Most of the time, it wouldn’t, especially not at crosswalks … but one day, it just might.

No, I have no way of really knowing what was going through your head that day. I have no idea whether you were distracted, impatient, or simply negligent. I’ll probably never know. What I do know is that you are not alone. You have joined the ranks of the many other drivers who have run red lights, sped through quiet streets without looking, and inched their way by because I haven’t crossed the street rapidly enough for their liking. Every day, frustrated drivers curse slow, irritating pedestrians as we plod along across the street, often crossing when we’re not supposed to or taking too long to cross at all. Generally, it’s because we’re busy reading texts of our own, or mopping our own spilled coffee, or otherwise failing to pay attention. Drivers take a lot of heat, and pedestrians are frequently at fault, it’s true.

But what if, as in my case, there’s a different reason? What if the reason we didn’t get out of your way was because we simply couldn’t see you coming? Cars are quieter than they’ve ever been, and can be difficult to hear under certain conditions. Crosswalks and residential streets don’t have strict traffic patterns for us to follow; we just wait, listen, and hope. I’ve gotten used to the innate risk of being a blind pedestrian (which is much lower than most people think, by the way), and while some encounters leave me shaky and frightened, I enjoy the right to navigate urban areas independently.

So, I’m just gonna say it, because it clearly hasn’t gotten through so far: slow down. Slow down, and realize that not everyone is dawdling on purpose. Realize that some of us cannot see you coming, can’t dodge or change direction quickly, and can’t compensate for your distracted driving. Realize that some of us have mobility issues that make it impossible for us to walk quickly, or even cross in a totally straight, perfect line. Realize that, while our slowness and inability to see you can inconvenience you, your carelessness could injure or kill us.

Next time you come to a rolling stop at a crosswalk, I beg you to take the extra few seconds required to come to a full stop, look up from your coffee-covered lap, and pay attention. Remember that even the slowest pedestrian can only take seconds from your life and that one careless mistake could take every second they have left. Remember that, no matter how late you’re running, no matter how busy you are, there is always, always time to stop for pedestrians.
Taking your eyes off your phone and taking the time to look out for me won’t kill you. Failing to do so could kill me.

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5 thoughts on “Dear Distracted Driver

  1. the message never gets through no matter how many road safety messages are broadcast it never sinks in and is in one ear and out the other. I do hope you are okay as I wonder when did this happen if it did? I say if it did simply because I’m curious and not questioning anything. I live by myself and often have to make sure it’s safe to cross the road if somebody’s mowing their grass or doing something in their yard or there’s council trucks around I won’t leave the house and try to cross the street as with distractions going on around me it’s not always easy to know whether it’s safe to cross the road

  2. Megan! thanks for the reminder on this. It did actually happen to me once that I rolled a bit too far into a crosswalk and wasn’t paying attention while waiting there, that a blind man walked into my vehicle. I felt awful about it. This is a good reminder to me and others that we should pay more attention, not just while driving!
    Hope you are well. I hope we get to take another class together, although, you’ll probably be graduated by the time I even get half way! LOL

    • It happens. I do hope you don’t beat yourself up about it, especially since he ended up being just fine. I wrote this in part to illustrate that I understand why drivers can sometimes do this without paying attention. It’s not because they’re bad people or bad drivers. They’re just not always as aware as they could be. Pedestrians aren’t always as aware as they could be, either.
      I actually graduated as of May. 😦

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